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Four cardinals have taken the ‘correct road’, says leading German philosopher

Pope Francis greets cardinals in 2014 (CNS)

The German philosopher Robert Spaemann has supported the four cardinals’ request for clarification of Amoris Laetitia, and said it is “regrettable” that more cardinals have not joined them.

Spaemann, a friend of Benedict XVI and one of the most distinguished Catholic intellectuals in Europe, told the Italian newspaper La Nova Bussola: “The cardinals have taken the correct road.” He says that cardinals have a duty to support the Church, which they are fulfilling by making the request.

The philosopher said that the Pope’s decision not to answer the five yes/no questions, known as dubia, “fills me with concern”. He says that the Pope “clearly has a deep aversion towards decisions which require a yes or no”. But Christ, said Spaemann, often “shocked the apostles with simplicity and clarity of the doctrine”.

Spaemann alluded to Christ’s teaching that “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) and marries another commits adultery” (Matthew 19). The disciples were so alarmed that they replied: “If that is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

After Amoris Laetitia was published in April, Spaemann said it “directly contradicts” John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, which said: “The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.”

It added that Communion could only follow sacramental absolution, which “can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.” If it was impossible for a couple to separate, they should undertake to live “in complete continence”.

Spaemann said that the Church had “no authority” to change this teaching, any more than to ordain women.

Unlike Spaemann, the four cardinals do not say that Amoris Laetitia has contradicted this teaching. But they say it is being interpreted as having done so – hence the request for clarification.

In the new interview, Spaemann says that Catholics should trust the teaching of Scripture and the Church, which the dubia defend. He quotes St Peter’s words to Jesus, when Jesus asks if the disciples will abandon Him: “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”